The End of an Era: British Swimming CEO David Sparkes Steps Down

Photo Courtesy: Jza84

British Swimming Chief Executive David Sparkes OBE will step down from the role at the end of this month after an involvement with swimming that has stretched over 45 years – 23 of which have been as CEO.

His departure marks the end of an era for aquatics in Great Britain that included the successful implementation of world class programmes through National Lottery Funding, six Olympic cycles including a home Games, and, in 2016, the best Olympic Swimming result for 100 years, a best ever Olympic Diving result and arguably the greatest Paralympic result in the history of the sport

Reflecting on his career Sparkes said: “It has been a huge honour and a privilege to lead British Swimming over the past 23 years. There have been some memorable highs, there have been some disappointing lows but I’m confident that I leave British Swimming in a strong position for the future.

“Looking back I believe the greatest legacy of my term has been the major change in our talent programmes across our funded sports which delivered unparalleled Olympic and Paralympic success last summer.

“I believe we now have a strong governance structure in place as well as a great team of people both on the pool decks and in the offices working together towards the organisation’s shared aims and objectives.”

Commenting on his retirement, British Swimming Chairman Maurice Watkins CBE said: “On behalf of the Board and everyone at British Swimming, I would like to thank David for his commitment, dedication and hard work over his 23-year career as CEO.

“He has successfully overseen significant change in how Olympic and Paralympic sport operates, and has helped to steer the sports to the highest levels.

“We all wish David well for the future as he takes a deserved place on the FINA Bureau.”

Sparkes’ interest in the sport began at a young age and he swam recreationally and competitively with his local swimming club in Droitwich. He qualified as an ASA Teacher in 1972 and progressed to the highest award at that time, the ASA Coach Certificate, in 1981. He coached at his club and successfully produced swimmers at international, national, district and county standard.

Developing an interest in administration at district and county level, Sparkes was invited to join a number of national committees and served for many years on the ASA Coach Certificate Committee and the ASA Education Committee where he acted as Chairman.

In 1994 he was appointed as Chief Executive to the Amateur Swimming Association and British Swimming where he applied business acumen and a commercial approach until July 2014 when they separated and Sparkes became Chief Executive of British Swimming.

Since his appointment, Sparkes has played a fundamental role in planning the future development of the aquatic sports, including the appointment of national performance directors and world class programmes with the aim of establishing Britain as a world power in international diving, para-swimming and swimming.

“I wanted to see British Swimming delivering medal success from day one back in 1994,” explained Sparkes. “We were a long way from that at the time and, whilst I would have liked it to come sooner, I was told it would take a while for a successful system to bear fruit and it did.

“What we saw our sports deliver in Rio last summer was remarkable with best-ever results across the board, however, I firmly believe there is more to come as the potential within the sports has never looked so strong.

“I am sure under the new leadership we will see British Swimming move on to even greater success. As a volunteer I shall now continue to take an interest in the sports’ future as we prepare for Tokyo and future challenges.”

During his tenure, Sparkes was heavily involved in delivering the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 2008 FINA World Championships in Manchester.  He was also a member of the bid team that secured the London 2012 Olympic Games and was involved from the outset with the Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow and European Swimming Championships in London in 2016.

In 2011 Sparkes was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to swimming.

Sparkes will continue to be actively involved in aquatics within his roles with the LEN Bureau (European Swimming) as General Secretary. He is also set to join the FINA Bureau (world governing body) later this year as the first British appointment to that Bureau for nearly 50 years.

Sparkes retires on Friday 30 JuneIan Mason, Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed by the British Swimming Board to act as the Accountable Officer until Jack Buckner, British Swimming’s new Chief Executive, officially commences his role on 1 October 2017.

Press release courtesy of British Swimming